The purpose of a guidebook is to get you to the cliff and describe the routes. Just about every guidebook I've picked up does a fair job of that. What sets a great guidebook apart from a mediocre one is its ability to capture the essence of the area. That may be an exploration into the history, a portrayal of the natural beauty, or a description of the difficulty, depending on what the core trait of the area is. Extreme Angles Publishing's guide to Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming by Aaron Huey has gone one step beyond that. Huey defined the mood and ambiance of the area by writing the most whacked out, entertaining guidebook on the market today.
The cover has a picture of a gun cause this book is about to blow your mind.
The book is littered with hilarity, from the bizarre outer space theme that runs throughout to the completely random pictures, diagrams, and route descriptions. It's a work of art nearly entering the comic book genre. Forget about star ratings demarcating route quality. Twenty-six different symbols are described but there are more, some of which make no sense at all. American flags and a patriotic theme of bazookas, grenades, and automatic weapons indicate a five star route. Porn girls, sometimes on their knees, and Pamela Anderson 'shooting your face off cause she does what she wants and you will let her' mean the route is four stars. Check the cleavage. Many different varieties of cat faces indicate a three star route, Kim Jong Il means sharp holds, a pot leaf or brain means you'll have to think, and Jesus Christ with a glowing drill bit emanating from his chest means, obviously, 'Christ Almighty.'
Huey is obviously insane and does his best to let you know it. His introduction tells you nothing about the area and ends with; "Just know that I love you and that I am full of lies. Don't take any of this shit too seriously, it's boring. Just have a beer and take a nap in the shade and be happy you were not reincarnated as a dog or a hungry ghost." The book is full of intentionally misspelled words and completely random photos ranging from angels and demons to senseless diagrams to a 'fat kid' that may or may not have free-climbed El Cap. Only Huey knows, we are left to wonder, and that is the way he likes it.
Ok, so the book is funny but does it do its job? Aside from the aforementioned qualities, the guide takes the standard format of modern, full-color guidebooks. Each area has color coded thumbnails, making it easy to find the area you're looking for. At the bottom of each page is useful info such as approach time, sun/shade aspect, grade range, and an African dictator. The old days of hand drawn topos are gone and each page has a glossy, full-color photo of the cliff with the route lines drawn in and numbered accordingly. And then we come full circle to the route descriptions and we are back to laughing our asses off.
Fortunately, Huey himself established many of Ten Sleeps earliest and finest routes and his wit can be found in route names such as Jesus Christ Super Jew, Aunt Jemima's Bisquick Thunderdome or Bitch Better Have My Money which is followed by the description: "$1300 to be exact. I loved her, she loved coke, now I'm broke...."
The view of outer space from the canyon. photo: aaronhuey.com
I've had the opportunity to use this book and as I said it's probably my all time favorite guidebook. But there is always room for improvement and the one aspect that I've heard from other climbers is that the directions to areas could be a bit better. One crew attempted to approach a crag called Mecca and never found the trailhead, if there even is one... For the popular crags the approaches are so easy you hardly need a book at all but for the obscure ones, more detailed directions could be helpful.
And as much as I hate to say it, if you are easily offended this is not the book for you. If you are a devout Christian, feminazi, or cringe at swear words, don't even pick it up. If you have no sense of humor and can't laugh at yourself and realize how ridiculous climbing is in the first place, there is no sense in visiting Ten Sleep anyway. That seems to be what Huey was driving at with the entire book.
One visiting climber from Colorado summed it up best: "I got here and this guy (Huey) that has devoted countless hours to bolting and building trails to the cliffs comes up to me and invites me to his annual cook-out. It was like doing all that work wasn't enough. He still wanted to give me free beer and cook me chicken with his Grandma Bunny's Solid Gold Secret Sauce. What the hell is going on here?"
It's true, if you haven't visited Ten Sleep, Wyoming, do yourself a favor. Pick up the book and start planning your next trip. The setting and climbing are magical and Huey's book defines it perfectly. Like I said before, that's the whole point of a guidebook isn't it?
Click here to buy the book from Extreme Angles Publishing. While you're there check out the rest of their selection of excellent books. See relevent sidenote #2 below.
Aaron Huey. photo: Huey's facebook page
Relevent sidenote #1:
While surfing around the web gathering extra info for this review I landed on Aaron Huey's personal website. I fully expected to find a bunch of info about the book, and climbing, and first ascents, etc. Instead, I could barely find a link to the book info. It turns out that Huey is far from insane. He's a world renowned photo journalist that has had multiple articles and photos published in National Geographic, Smithsonian, the New Yorker, etc. He and his camera have dodged bullets in Afghanistan, hitchhiked across Siberia, walked across America with his dog, done significant work with publicizing the plight of the Lakota natives of South Dakota/Wyoming and much more. I killed half a day reading through his website. It's amazing. Check it out.
Extreme Angles was kind enough to send along a copy of one of their other books. "The Voo" is a guide to the crack climbing paradise of Vedauwoo, Wyoming written by none other than Zach Orenczak, the owner/operator of Extreme Angles. While I haven't had the opportunity to use the book in a practical setting, a first glance reveals that it is solid pro material. It's definitely a tighter book than the Ten Sleep guide and chock full of relevant info presented in an easy-to-read manner. The pictures are glossy full-color, the route photos are perfect, the descriptions are detailed. What else can I say? Another great book that leads me to believe that Extreme Angles is one of those companies that is only producing the best products out there. Check them out.